Magnesium is an essential mineral that has a hand in many vital body functions, for example releasing energy, regulating body temperature, building protein, and stabilizing bone. It is also one of several nutrients that helps keep blood pressure within a healthy range. And since magnesium is plentiful in vegetables, legumes, and whole grains, it is easy to consume enough if you are eating a healthy diet.
Magnesium's functions include:
Activating more than 300 enzymes (Enzymes are chemicals that regulate a variety of body functions, including making body proteins and causing muscle contractions.)
Aiding in the metabolism of fat and carbohydrate to produce energy
Binding with ATP to form "active ATP," which provides energy for almost all metabolic reactions and processes
Ensuring proper nerve and muscle function and keeping heart rhythm steady
Helping synthesize nucleic acids (DNA and RNA) and proteins, which are the building blocks of body tissue
Giving structure to cell membranes
Helping keep bones healthy
Decreasing the risk of
by binding calcium to tooth enamel
Recommended Dietary Allowance
(AI) = 30
AI = 30
AI = 75
AI = 75
Pregnancy (18 years or younger)
Pregnancy 19-30 years
Pregnancy 31-50 years
Lactation (18 years or younger)
Lactation 19-30 years
Lactation 31-50 years
Magnesium deficiency is rare because most people have large stores of this mineral in their body. However, it can be caused by diseases or medicines that interfere with the body's ability to absorb magnesium. Symptoms of a magnesium deficiency include: irregular heartbeat, nausea, confusion,
depression, tingling, weakness, loss of appetite, and muscle contractions and cramps.
Conditions and medicines that may lead to a magnesium deficiency include:
Poorly controlled diabetes (can increase the loss of magnesium through urine)
Alcoholism—Alcohol increases urinary excretion of magnesium. People who drink heavily typically have poor diets that are lacking in many essential nutrients, including magnesium.
Kidney disease—The kidneys are important for reabsorption and excretion of magnesium.
Magnesium toxicity is not a concern for most healthy people. However, people with kidney disease may develop toxicity because the kidneys are responsible for regulating the level of magnesium in the blood. Symptoms of magnesium toxicity include:
Malaise (general discomfort or an "out-of-sorts" feeling)
Major Food Sources
Magnesium is found in a variety of foods. The best sources are legumes, nuts, whole grains, and certain vegetables. "Hard" water (which is high in dissolved minerals, specifically
and magnesium) is also a source of magnesium.
Magnesium content (mg)
Pumpkin & squash seeds, roasted
Tofu, raw, firm
Navy beans, boiled
Almonds, dry roasted, unsalted
Black-eyed peas, boiled
Lima beans, boiled
Chickpeas (garbanzo beans), boiled
Swiss chard, boiled
Cashews, dry roasted
Avocado, raw, California
Sweet potato, canned, mashed
Potato, microwaved with skin
Acorn squash, baked
½ cup cubes
Whole wheat spaghetti, cooked
Wheat germ, toasted
Sunflower seeds, dry roasted
1 cup (8 fluid ounces)
Whole wheat bread
Greater magnesium intake is associated with a lower incidence of
high blood pressure
. This is the finding of a few large clinical studies. One of these, the
(Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) study found that a diet high in magnesium, potassium, and calcium and low in sodium and fat can significantly lower blood pressure. You can get these nutrients by eating a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and low-fat dairy foods. Another group of researchers studied 30,000 US male health professionals over several years. The study found a greater magnesium intake was significantly associated with a lower risk of hypertension.
Based on the growing number of studies showing a positive role for magnesium in managing blood pressure, the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure recommends maintaining an adequate magnesium intake to prevent and manage high blood pressure.
Several studies have found links between magnesium status and heart health. Many of these suggest that an adequate intake of magnesium is protective of the heart. However, further study needs to be done to clarify magnesium's role.
Since a significant amount of magnesium is stored in the bones and one of magnesium's roles is to help keep bones healthy, it would make sense that magnesium would help protect bones from the thinning of
. Several studies have suggested just that—magnesium supplementation may improve bone mineral density. However it is still not clear, and more study needs to be done.
Tips For Increasing Your Magnesium Intake
It is easy to meet your magnesium needs through foods. To increase your intake, try some of the following:
Sprinkle wheat germ over your morning bowl of cereal or oatmeal and on top of casseroles or in baked goods.
Throw a handful of nuts into a spinach salad to add a little crunch and some extra nutrition.
Wrap beans, rice, sauteed vegetables, and a little bit of cheese in a warm tortilla for lunch.
Add beans to dishes like chili, soup, salad, pasta, or rice.
Have a bowl of whole grain cereal for breakfast or to snack on; if you are not used to the taste, mix it with your usual cereal.
Bake a potato and top it with sauteed spinach, black beans, and salsa.
Spread peanut butter on your toast or bagel instead of butter, margarine, or cream cheese.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care
provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a
substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER
IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the
advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to
starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a